Journal/Scripps forced to sell KIVI or KNIN

When Journal Broadcast Group is merged into EW Scripps, KIVI and KNIN will no longer be on the same side.

IMG_0822-0.JPGIn a little-noticed FCC filing earlier this month, Journal agreed to “sell” the two stations to “Journal/Scripps Divestiture Trust.” A bit of digging finds that Journal & Scripps have to unload one of the Boise TV stations in order to consummate their marriage.

Here’s why: in 2009, after a lengthy process, Journal bought KNIN under the FCC’s “failing station” waiver provisions. At the time, KNIN was a CW affiliate with little in the way of ratings or revenue. Journal convinced the FCC that it would be a better steward for the license.

And how. KNIN is now a Fox affiliate, loaded with NFL, college football, two hours of live local news, a hit Fox show or two… It even aired the Super Bowl. A far cry from its first days as a Home Shopping Club affiliate. To get to profitability, it laid off nearly all KNIN staffers, stopped leasing space downtown and merged most technical operations into its Nampa facility.

Now that EW Scripps is buying Journal, it will require the license for both KIVI & KNIN (as well as Journal’s four local radio stations) be transferred to Scripps. But, alas, channel 9 isn’t failing any longer. And neither, one would guess, is channel 6. To get this deal done, the new company will have to unwind its Boise duopoly just five years after doing the deal.

The companies are not commenting on which station they’ll keep or which they’ll ditch. A safe bettor would guess KIVI, but it’s hard to say (and as an employee of a competitor, I’m not the one to ask these questions. Perhaps Michael Deeds, as a partner/friend/employee of KIVI will… But he hasn’t of yet, despite these filings several weeks ago).

KIVI & KNIN aren’t really separate stations anymore. They share everything large & small: news, graphics, sales people, music, tech staffers, branding… They even share the same website. It’s really one station with two separate program streams. Unwinding will not be a simple one day process.

These are all speculative scenarios…
– Scripps keeps KIVI, moves all Fox programming & news to KIVI 6.2. Keeps both essentially – jettisoning the broadcast license and transmitter. This is a tactic being used by Sinclair in markets around the country. It would essentially make he KNIN license & transmitter worthless. In the Sinclair markets where this has happened, the former station has been shut down.

– Scripps keeps KIVI, sells KNIN with programming intact to a sidecar owner. This is a practice where Scripps would “sell” the license and transmitter to a “third party” – generally a technically separate company that is essentially controlled by Scripps. These deals were everywhere for a while, popularized by Sinclair – but the FCC has been cracking down. This is a less-likely scenario.

– Scripps keeps KIVI, sells KNIN to a truly outside buyer – but continues to run programming and sales operations for a fee. This is known as a Joint Sales Agreement or Shared Services Agreement.

– Scripps keeps KIVI, sells KNIN with all programming intact to an outside owner and has little involvement in the station (see news caveat below). There are no obvious buyers (KTVB-owner Gannett and KBOI-owner Sinclair are likely no-gos here). Block Communications, which famously balked at paying Fox’s demands for compensation at KTRV-TV is an interesting dark horse. Block & Fox network-owner Twenty First Century Fox patched things up in Louisville, where Block owns WDBI-TV which remains a Fox affiliate. It’s unlikely “Fox 12,” would rise again – but a KTRV/KNIN combo might be allowable by the FCC – and Block has some infrastructure still in the market. A company without a Boise presence could also be in the mix – Gray, Meredith, etc. Back to that news caveat: it’s conceivable that Scripps could continue to supply KNIN with news (or it could even come from one of the other two TV news providers in the market for the right price).

– Scripps keeps KIVI, sells KNIN to McClatchy! OK, this isn’t happening. But a fun thought: what if the owner of the Idaho Statesman bought KNIN? Stranger things have happened: in St. Joseph, Missouri, the News-Press Gazette started up a Fox affiliate and started creating news for it. To be fair, NPG owns a bunch of TV stations around he country and has expertise in this area – McClatchy is only a newspaper company. But what better way to turn around a newspaper than with a TV station? Who doesn’t want to see News at Nine anchored by Dan Popkey & Pete Zimowsky? What’s that? They don’t work there anymore? How about Woodward? Semi-retired? Ok. Brian Murphy on sports at least. What? He’s moving to DC?

You’ll notice that none of my scenarios start with Scripps dropping KIVI. While it’s not impossible, I tend to think there is more revenue on the ABC-affiliate. KNIN does have some attractive things going for it: mainly the NFL… Which KIVI has none of. Time will tell.